independent

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Two Wexford areas in school patron survey

PROPOSED EDUCATION REFORM

PADRAIG BYRNE

TWO AREAS in County Wexford are to be among 44 areas countrywide that will take part in a poll, set to take place in October/November, which will allow parents to vote for their preferred choice of school patron.

New Ross and Enniscorthy have both been chosen as areas that are thought to have an oversupply of Catholic Primary schools. With more and more calls for the secularisation of Irish schools and a reduction of influence of the Catholic Church on the education system, the Department of Education have decided to survey parents as part of a process that may see some Catholic schools transferred to other patrons.

In an online poll, parents will be asked to choose their patron of choice from a list of the main primary school management bodies including; the Catholic Church; Educate Together (the multidenominational group) ; Gaelscoileanna; the Vocational Education Committee (that runs a small number of community national schools) and others.

'For many parents this will be the first time they will have a real say in the type of primary school they want their children to go to,' said Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn.

'Surveys of parents will begin in the first identified town areas in the autumn.'

Mr Quinn also said that he hopes that these surveys can take place in a calm and respectful manner without any media frenzy. He has also outlined that his department will consult with the patron bodies on a code of practice which will ensure that local discussions are conducted 'in a reasonable fashion', and that he hopes that the divesting of some primary schools from the church to other patrons could begin as early as next year.

Last year, parents in Gorey backed the local VEC to run a new second-level school, with Educate Together, who narrowly lost out, claiming that it could not compete with the better-resourced VEC sector during the campaign.

The Catholic Church currently controls about 3,000 of the 3,200 primary schools in the state and Mr Quinn has stated on numerous occasions that he hopes about 50% of these can be divested to new patrons while the Catholic Schools Partnership has set a figure of about 10% as being more realistic.

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